1-17-20 Economy: Is income inequality overstated?
New research is poking holes in the conventional wisdom about income inequality, said The Economist. The idea that the richest 1 percent has “detached itself from everyone else” is a rallying cry for populists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But some economists have “recrunched the numbers” and are calling out the research behind this “almost universally held” belief. They note, for example, that Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the economists most responsible for the uproar over inequality, built their estimates by focusing on household income rather than individual income, even though “marriage rates have declined disproportionately among poorer Americans.” That means that the data is spread over more lower-income households, “even as the top incomes remain pooled.” Then there is the misreading of the effects of the Ronald Reagan–era 1986 tax reform, which “created strong incentives for firms to operate as ‘pass-through’ entities, where owners register profits as income on their tax returns,” thereby inflating some top-income shares after 1987. Accounting for flaws such as these, the income share of the top 1 percent actually “may have little changed since as long ago as 1960.” Enough, said Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic. We just finished a decade in which “the middle class shrank, longevity fell, and it became clear that a whole generation was falling behind.” And now we’re being told “the decade went so well,” thanks to free shipping and cheap stuff on Amazon? Look around you: Middle-income families are facing “a cost-of-living crisis,” thanks to “an egregious housing shortage that led to ballooning rents and long commutes, sky-high child-care prices, spiraling out-of-pocket health-care fees, and heavy educational debt loads.”
1-17-20 Women hold 50% of Jobs
Women held 50.04 percent of jobs last month, surpassing men on nonfarm payrolls for the first time since 2010, thanks to growth in health care and education. (Webmaster's comment: But are still 20-25% behind on compensation.)
1-17-20 Iranian athlete defects
Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has fled to the Netherlands, saying she will no longer be “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran.” Kimia Alizadeh, 21, took bronze in tae kwon do at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and she is now training with the Dutch team, but it’s unclear whether she has applied for asylum. “Of course she is welcome here,” said Dutch tae kwon do trainer Mimoun El Boujjoufi. “We know her qualities.” Alizadeh’s announcement comes just months after Iranian judo champ Saeid Mollaei defected and took Mongolian citizenship. He was angered at being ordered to throw a semifinal bout in last year’s World Judo Championships to avoid facing an Israeli in the final.
1-17-20 White boys are lagging behind
British educational institutions routinely offer scholarships to black Britons from deprived backgrounds, said Miranda Green, yet singling out disadvantaged white youths for special help is seen as racist. Prominent academic Sir Bryan Thwaites discovered that recently when he tried to endow a $1.3 million scholarship to send working-class white boys to two posh boarding schools. The schools turned the gift down, thinking it looked bad for their brands. Yet Thwaites, a scholarship boy himself, has identified a real need. The educational underperformance of Britain’s white working-class males is “desperate.” Fewer than 10 percent of poor white boys go to university—the lowest share of any demographic group. Boys lag behind girls at all stages of schooling, simply “tuning out of what goes on in the classroom.” This may be because boys don’t want to be “catapulted out of their own social context” into college, which many think is only for toffs and eggheads. There is a range of possible remedies: We could combat boys’ perception of university study “as passive and dull,” or expand vocational colleges, which “have been allowed to wither.” The government should refocus British education on “those who don’t go to university”—which, after all, is most of us. (Webmaster's comment: Helping the most ignorant is a lost cause.)
1-15-20 Democratic debate: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ramp up feud
There have been seven official Democratic debates but this one had a real sense of urgency - in less than three weeks the candidates will face their first test. The primary season begins on 3 February with the Iowa caucuses, when the Democratic voters in this state will pick who they want to take on Donald Trump in November. As the six White House hopefuls took to the debate stage in Des Moines, the Republican US president they have in their sights was mocking them at a rally 400 miles east in Wisconsin. Here are some key moments from the debate - and the Trump rally. The body language between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at the conclusion of the debate - when they spoke heatedly and did not shake hands - told its own story. The non-aggression pact between the two candidates could be over just as the voting is set to begin. The biggest news story in campaign politics over the past few days had been the growing tensions between the two most liberal candidates. Warren had alleged that Sanders told her in December 2018 that a woman couldn't win the presidency - something Sanders denied. Asked about this during the debate, Sanders denied it again - saying he has long supported the idea of a woman president. Then Warren had her turn, and in a set-piece response she clearly spent time crafting, she hit a number of political targets almost in one breath. She started by essentially implying that Sanders was lying. She then pivoted her response into a shout-out for the electoral success that she and Amy Klobuchar, the other woman candidate on the stage, have had. They've won every election they've been in, she said to thunderous applause, while the three male politicians debating have lost 10 between them. She ended by pitching herself as the unity candidate with a broad coalition.
1-15-20 Democratic debate: Warren mocks men for losing elections
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did not look happy with each other at the end of CNN's Democratic debate in Iowa. The two senators had sparred over the question of whether a woman could beat Donald Trump and win the White House in November's election. Both agreed that a woman could become US president - but disputed whether Mr Sanders had told Ms Warren otherwise in a private conversation in 2018. The Massachusetts senator then used the opportunity to contrast the electoral record of the male and female candidates on the debate stage.
1-15-20 Vatican appoints first woman to senior role in Church
Pope Francis has made an Italian lawyer the first woman to hold a management position in the Vatican's most important office. Francesca Di Giovanni, 66, will serve as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. She will be responsible for co-ordinating the Holy See's relations with groups including the UN. Pope Francis has been vocal in his support for women holding greater positions of authority in the Vatican. "I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well," she told Vatican media. Ms Di Giovanni has worked for the Vatican for 27 years and holds a law degree. She has specialised in areas including migration and refugees, the status of women, intellectual property and tourism. "The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women," she said. "But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman."
1-14-20 Oscars 2020: Heller and Hanks on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks has been nominated for an Oscar for his role in the soon to be released A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. But like the Baftas, no women have been nominated in the best director category at this year's Oscars. Hanks and the film's director, Marielle Heller, spoke to the BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz before the Oscar nominations were announced and said they hoped for change in the industry.
1-12-20 Kimia Alizadeh: Iran's only female Olympic medallist defects
Iran's only female Olympic medallist, the taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh, has confirmed she has defected. In a series of posts on social media, Alizadeh, 21, said she had left Iran because she didn't want to be part of "hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery". She described herself as "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran". Alizadeh's whereabouts are not known but she was reported to have been training in the Netherlands. She made history for Iran in 2016 when she won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics. But in her social media posts she said authorities in the Islamic republic had used her success as a propaganda tool. Her defection comes as Iran is gripped by protests - stemming from the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner on Wednesday, in middle of a major confrontation with the US. "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they've been playing for years," she wrote. "I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools." She added that although the government would exploit her sporting success politically, officials would humiliate her with comments such as: "It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs." Alizadeh denied she'd been invited to Europe or given a tempting offer and did not confirm which country she had gone to. Iranians reacted with shock last week when news of Alizadeh's disappearance first emerged. Iranian politician Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh accused "incompetent officials" of allowing Iran's "human capital to flee". On Thursday, the semi-official Isna news agency carried a report that said: "Shock for Iran's taekwondo. Kimia Alizadeh has emigrated to the Netherlands." The agency reported that Alizadeh was hoping to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but not under the Iranian flag.
1-9-20 Record number of female film leads, US study suggests
Female characters had their biggest-ever representation in box office films last year, according to research. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film said a record 40% of 2019's highest-grossing US movies had women in a lead role - up 9%. But black and minority ethnic (BAME) women are being left behind, the annual report also suggests. Films on the list include Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Joker and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Compiled from information from Box Office Mojo, the study said that 43% of the biggest movies had a male lead, while titles with equal male/female leads or ensemble casts accounted for the remaining 17%. Film critic Dr Rebecca Harrison told the BBC the increase of representation in leading women on screen is "great" for megastar white actresses like Brie Larson, Angelina Jolie and Renee Zellweger, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie - who received two Bafta nominations in the same category this week. But "for women of colour" she added, "representation is still appalling". The main female characters in question proved to be white 68% of the time, compared to their black colleagues (20%). Asian women made up 7% of the roles and Latina women 5%. "The intersectional oppressions are alive and well," said Dr Harrison. The survey - which began in 2002, when big female lead roles were at a lowly 16% - arrives after a week of criticism around the unfair treatment of women and BAME people, either side of the camera. It's a Man's (Celluloid) World, which is the name of the study, suggested that in films with at least one female writer and/or director, 58% of the main characters were female. That figure dropped to 30% in films made by men. Last week the Golden Globes again did not recognise any women in their five-strong all-male pool for best director - won by Sam Mendes for his war epic, 1917. And this week no women were nominated in the same category for a seventh year in a row at the Baftas.
1-8-20 Does the US have a problem with topless women?
Women fed up with being forced to cover up their breasts and nipples are challenging American laws about nudity and sparking a debate about the country's attitude to the naked female form. In September, Effie Krokos was awarded a $50,000 (£38,178) civil settlement after she took her shirt off in public in Loveland, Colorado, and was issued a summons for doing so. The 20-year-old was charged with indecent exposure after she played Frisbee topless in her fiance's front yard. She had thought that the law in Colorado had changed and she was safe to take her shirt off when she got hot and sweaty during the game - after all her fiance had removed his top too. They were equal, right? "I thought it was fine because there had been a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Colorado. I'd read an article about it saying that it was OK for women to go topless. "It was a warm September day and the weather was roasting. I took my shirt off without thinking too much about it." But a few hours later, a police officer turned up to tell her that there had been complaints and she was facing charges. Krokos told the BBC: "I kept asking the police officer what I was being charged with, but I was just told I was disgusting the neighbours and that there were children around, and what made it OK for me to think I could be topless? "I was taken aback because for everyone to be here today who was breastfed, you would have had a topless woman feed you. What is so disgusting about that?" Krokos said that by the time the officer arrived at her home, she was fully clothed while her fiance remained topless, and yet there had been no complaints about him. "It's not like I was standing in the middle of the road, screaming 'look at me'. I was discreetly playing Frisbee in my yard when I had my top off," she added. But it didn't matter. She had to get lawyers involved to have the charges dismissed and the case sealed so it would not come up in background checks. If the charge of indecent exposure had been upheld it would have derailed her dream of teaching. "There was a risk at one point that I would have been marked down as a sexual predator as indecent exposure is a sexual offence," Krokos said.